PAHO Director of Health Emergencies, Dr Ciro Ugarte

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Now that a Taste of Carnival is over, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) says people need to adhere to the Public Health Regulations even more, as local authorities await the impact of the gatherings.

During yesterday’s press briefing on COVID-19 in the Americas, PAHO Director of Health Emergencies Dr Ciro Ugarte noted that while the public health measure to contain the spread of the disease remained in effect, some people chose to ignore them during Carnival events.

Over the festive period, images and videos showed people dancing together, maskless and ignoring social distancing rules.

However, Ugarte said, it was too soon to know the impact of the Carnival. Based on trends, he said the number of cases would increase after a week or two and the number of deaths two weeks after the spike.

“I would say that in this case, we need to be cautious. We need to be looking at any symptoms. If you in Trinidad and Tobago feel you have a symptom or were in contact with a person with symptoms, without protection, you should implement quarantine or report to the healthcare workers and get tested. As soon as you get tested, we can prevent the spike or some surges and larger restrictions that may come after the number of cases and deaths go up,” he said.

Meanwhile, for the sixth consecutive week, he said the Americas reported a decline in COVID-19 trends with almost 1.5 million new infections, a 32 per cent decline compared to the previous week. Countries also reported 24,650 deaths, a drop of 10 per cent.

Ugarte said the reductions were comforting, and people felt there were fewer risks now.

“This is a recommendation that is based on the experience of what we have seen on many other occasions in many other countries and also Trinidad & Tobago when the reduction of protective measures was implemented,” Ugarte said.

He said local authorities were assessing the situation and requested specific studies on the impact of the treatment and measures available.

Dr Sylvain Aldighieri, Incident Manager for COVID-19, said weekly cases decreased by 28 per cent and deaths by 25 per cent in the Caribbean compared to the previous week. However, weekly deaths remain elevated in some countries, like Jamaica and T&T.

As the Omicron variant seems to cause less severe disease, Aldighieri said it still impacts Caribbean people.

“Please take into account that even though Omicron might be less severe, particularly in vaccinated people or individuals who have recovered from a previous infection, infection with the Omicron variant might still be severe in unvaccinated individuals and people belonging to risk groups, including people with immuno-suppression. As an example, people living with a transplanted organ,” Aldighieri said.

Forty-nine countries and territories now have the Omicron variant as their dominant strain. It includes the BA.1 and BA.1.1 sub-lineages that reference laboratories identified in more than 98 per cent of samples sequenced.

It includes the Caribbean, where most countries report the dominance of Omicron, including reports in the last few days from the Bahamas and Guyana.